Category Archives: Christian benevolence

In case you missed this: 864-400-9431

In case you missed this notice a few blogs back:

Given my conviction that praying is the best thing we can ever do for someone, and given the fact that I want to be involved in the best, I’ve established a second phone line in my home, strictly for people to use to request prayers. If you call and I’m home – and can answer – I’ll be happy to pray with you if you’d like. Otherwise, you’ll be able to leave a message. All calls will be held in strictest confidence. Every prayer request will be honored. The number is 864-400-9431Please feel free to share it with your friends.

man-praying

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian benevolence, Jesus, Religion

20 Convictions Concerning Prayer

I’m struggling with my prayer life.

Of course, I’m convinced that anyone who cares about prayer struggles; I don’t believe anyone ever reaches a point where they are completely satisfied with how much, or when, or how they pray.

As I sense the Lord leading me into a more significant investment of myself in prayer, I’m also realizing more and more what a mystery it is.

Still, for what it’s worth, below are 20 convictions I’ve come to concerning prayer.

(By the way, although I’ve been praying since I was a small child, I still feel like a “prayer newbie”. So if you have any additional thoughts or observations, please share them.)

1. Praying is the most important, powerful, productive and beneficial thing you can ever do for someone.

2. Of all the ministries one might have, prayer is the one that is available to everyone despite any physical, emotional or intellectual disadvantages. I have had individuals with Downs’ Syndrome pray for me and have been as blessed by them as by anyone.

3. Prayer is not limited by geography. I can make a significant difference in Somalia, though I’ve never been there.

4. Prayer is not limited by time. I’m convinced that prayers I prayed years ago for my family are still as intact and as influential as they were the moment I prayed them.

5. Jesus prayed. It must matter.

“…the Son of God, who had spoken worlds into being and sustains all that exists, felt a compelling need to pray. He prayed as if it made a difference, as if the time he devoted to prayer mattered every bit as much as the time he devoted to caring for people.” – Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?  p 79

“Although Jesus offered no metaphysical proofs of the effectiveness of prayer, the very fact that he did it establishes its worth.” Ibid. p 81

6. Jesus continues to pray. It must matter. The only description of Jesus’ current activity given to us in the Bible is his praying on behalf of his followers: Hebrews 7:25.

7. The Bible definitely, repeatedly calls us to prayer. It must matter.

“Turn to the Bible’s view of history… and you see a picture of God as a personal Being who alertly listens to prayers and then responds. Jesus filled in that portrait, and the disciples took up praying right where Jesus left off, making specific and personal requests for God to act.” – Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?  p 132

8. Three reassurances things I’m looking for when I pray: that God loves me, that he understands me and that he allows my prayers to make a difference.

9. Prayer is a declaration of dependence upon God.

10. Prayer is our strongest weapon against invisible forces.

“To clasp our hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” – Karl Barth, cited in Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, by Philip Yancey, p 118

11. In the midst of struggles, prayer is not preparation for some future battle. Prayer is the battle.

12. Prayer perhaps requires the greatest amount of faith. Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5:7 that “We walk by faith, not by sight.” There is no greater arena than prayer in which that is true.

“For most of us, much of the time, prayer brings no certain confirmation we have been heard. We pray in faith that our words somehow cross a bridge between visible and invisible worlds, penetrating a reality of which we have no proof. We enter God’s milieu, the realm of spirit…” – Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?  p 22, 23

13. It does not matter how long my prayer is. Just as extended time in prayer is important, prayer “snatches” or “arrows” (as I’ve heard them called) are every bit as powerful.

14. One of Jesus’ last prayer requests has yet to be granted. In the Garden of Gethsemane, recorded in John 17, Jesus prayed that his followers would be unified.

15. Soberingly, one of Jesus’ final prayer requests was denied. Also in the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed that he would not have to go through the ordeal he was facing.

16.  Prayer does not require fancy language.

17. The intensity of my prayer doesn’t matter.

18. When I can’t find the strength or the words to pray, the Holy Spirit also (see #6) prays on my behalf.  Read Romans 8:26, 27

19.  Prayer is not an effort on our part to pry open the fingers of a God reluctant to bless us.

20. The purpose of prayer is not for us to change God’s mind, but to put ourselves in the position for him to change ours.

Given my conviction that praying is the best thing we can ever do for someone, and given the fact that I want to be involved in the best, I’ve established a second phone line in my home, strictly for people to use to request prayers. If you call and I’m home – and can answer – I’ll be happy to pray with you if you’d like. Otherwise, you’ll be able to leave a message. All calls will be held in strictest confidence. Every prayer request will be honored. The number is 864-400-9431. Please feel free to share it with your friends.

4 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Christian benevolence, Jesus, Religion

Sloppy Thinking: Exhibit #4

From time to time, I’m responding to various ideas that I think are prime examples of sloppy thinking. Such as:

Of course as soon as you begin to practice something, it’s no longer random.

Dallas Willard offers a better suggestion and a  keen observation:

“Practice routinely purposeful  kindnesses and intelligent acts of beauty….

“And no act of beauty is senseless, for the beautiful is never absurd. Nothing is more meaningful than beauty.”

5 Comments

Filed under Art, Christian benevolence

Emmy Follow-Up: Hatfields and McCoys

The tragic feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families was recreated on The History Channel and aired this past Spring. Starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton as “Devil” Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy, respectively, the three-part miniseries drew 62-million viewers.  

Nominated for 16 Emmys, last night Kevin Costner won for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series and Tom Berenger won for Best Supporting Actor.

This localized Civil War, which ran between 1880 to 1891, was fueled by initial transgressions ranging from suspected murder to a stolen pig. But it was rooted on both sides by the basest of sins: pride and an unwillingness to forgive or show mercy. And as a result the feud claimed more than a dozen members of the two families, drew national attention, and prompted the governors of both Kentucky and Virginia to call up their state militias to restore order.

If you’d like to read a good overview of the conflict, go to:

http://www.history.com/shows/hatfields-and-mccoys/articles/hatfield-and-mccoy-feud

There is a significant – and ultimately ironic – theme that threads its way throughout this saga, a spiritual one.

Anse Hatfield is a man who has no use for God, goes to church only when his wife “drags” him there and when, during the Civil War, he’s encouraged, in the thick of battle, to “make your peace”, he responds, “I never courted God before … I doubt he’d hear me now.”

Randall McCoy, on the other hand, goes to church regularly, talks about God, talks to God (at least in emergencies) and quotes Scripture.

But he seems rather selective in his reading of Scripture, knowing nothing of the call to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4: 31, 32)

Hot-tempered, McCoy also ignores:

Matthew 5:44 – “Love your enemies, and pray for those that persecute you.”

Mark 11:35 – “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him… “

Romans 12:20, 21 – “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I John 3:15 – “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.”

The stark difference between these two men is evident in one particular confrontation:

McCoy: “Devil Anse Hatfield, I rue the day I saved your life. May God damn your eternal soul.”

Hatfield: “That may be, Randall. But I don’t remember God saving your ass that day. We saved each other because that’s what men do in war. Now this all here: this all sits the way it sits cause of us and nobody else. You feel the need to bring up God one more time, whose side he sits on [cocks rifle] you won’t be makin’ the ride home.”

As the violence escalates over the years, costing the lives of some of his own children and the sanity of his wife, McCoy begins to abandon any claim he might make for the goodness of God.

“I prayed to a merciful God who showed us no mercy. Is this his will? My children dead? My wife hurt and my house burned? Where was God? If this was his will, what kind of God is that?”

Having turned more and more to drink, McCoy shows up for what turned out to be the final confrontation between the two families: The Battle of Grapevine”, in 1888. Completely drunk he cries out, “The law be damned! Hatfields be damned! God be damned! Damn you all to Perdition!”

It’s a relatively short skirmish and both Ansel Hatfield and Randall McCoy live through it, although Hatfield’s youngest son is killed.

After that, it is Hatfield who decides enough blood has been spilled. It is time for the fighting and killing to stop. And in a somewhat heartless manner, he brings it all to an end.

Years later, Randall McCoy, in a deranged, drunken outburst, ends up perishing in a house fire.

Ansel Hatfield, on the other hand, is shown having come to a faith in Jesus as his Savior and being baptized in the river.

These two men, to the extent that their lives were accurately portrayed, demonstrate some very important dimensions of the Gospel.

Regarding Randall McCoy:

1)      Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 7:21)

2)      He also said, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”(Matthew 12:34)  and

3)      “By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:20). Then,

4)      The Scriptures describe the fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23)

Regarding Ansel Hatfield: He exemplifies Jesus’ parable recorded in Matthew 20. No matter how late someone responds to Jesus’ invitation, he is as welcome as the one who came first.

2 Comments

Filed under Art, Christian benevolence, Evil, Film analyses, Film analysis, Jesus, Media, Religion, Television

On Chick-fil-A: Another’s Perspective

With controversy continuing to swirl around Chick-fil-A, the following blog, posted last week by James Emery White, has some important insights.

The Chick-fil-A Mirror

Every now and then an event comes along that offers a unique reflection of our world. A mirror, if you will, of what our culture has become.

One took place this past week through the catalyst of three words from the CEO of a restaurant chain:

“Guilty as charged.”

Dan Cathy, president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A, gave an interview to Baptist Press. Correctly saying that there is no such thing as a “Christian business,” he did offer that organizations such as his can operate on biblical principles “asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have.”

Then came the match that lit the fire.

When asked about the company’s support of the traditional family, Cathy simply said, “Well, guilty as charged.”

He then went on to say, “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business…our restaurants are typically led by families…We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families.”

Gasp! How dare he say that when it comes to families, his support goes with the historic, traditional understanding of millennia that reflects his Judeo-Christian values.

At least that seemed to be the collective response from such cultural epicenters as the media.

The Baptist Press interview was picked up by the Huffington Post, Associated Press, USAToday, Los Angeles Times and more – most with the phrase “anti-gay” in the headline – fueled by the “revelation” that the privately-owned business donated to Christian groups that opposed homosexuality.

[Of course, overlooked were the millions of dollars Chick-fil-A gives each year to other charitable causes. For example, they fund foster care programs, schools of higher learning, and children’s camps. They provide scholarships for the employees to attend college, and this past Friday, they provided free meals for the police force in Aurora, Colorado.]

Many on twitter and in the blogosphere immediately labeled them a hate group.

Yes, a hate group.

Then the mayor of Boston vowed to block Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant in the city because it is a business “that discriminates against a population.”

The Jim Henson Company of Kermit and Miss Piggy fame said they will stop providing toys for the fast food chain’s kids’ meals because the company won’t endorse same-sex marriage. They plan on donating money already received from Chick-fil-A to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

Ed Helms, star of the sitcom The Office, publicly promised a personal boycott.

Okay, let’s put our big-boy pants on for a minute.

Cathy never uttered the words “anti-gay” in the interview. All he did was state, when pointedly asked, his support for the traditional family as outlined in the Bible.

Further, the company made it clear following Cathy’s comments that they had no intention of entering the policy debate over same-sex marriage, and that the Chick-fil-A “culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

And indeed, there has never even been a hint of discrimination in Chick-fil-A’s history.

So Chick-fil-A is not a hate group, does not discriminate, and is not actively working in the realm of public policy.

It just has personal core values.

But my, what a mirror this has provided, and the reflection is worth noting in detail.

Fifty years ago, any support of homosexual practice would have ended your business. Now, the threat to your business is support of the traditional family.

It is a fascinating progression that has taken place in American culture.

First, classical Christian orthodoxy was marginalized.

Second, it became ostracized.

Third, it became demonized.

Fourth, it became penalized.

And now the move would seem to be to have it criminalized.

Defining discrimination as disagreement, and then disagreement as a hate crime, is one of the more frightening developments of our time.

But developed it has.

As the Baptist Press reporter has since said of the tempest over Cathy’s remarks, “I don’t understand why that’s a bad thing all of a sudden. It was not an anti-gay statement. It was a pro-family statement.”

But that’s the point.

That’s the reflection given to us in this mirror.

Welcome to our world.

James Emery White

Sources

“’Guilty as charged,’ Cathy says of Chick-fil-A’s stand on biblical & family values”; read online.

“Chick-fil-A steps out of public debate on gay marriage”; read online.

“Boston mayor vows to keep Chick-fil-A out of city”; read online.

“Some Chick-fil-A news reports called ‘distorted’”; read online.

“In Defense of Eating at Chick-fil-A”; read online.

“Huckabee launches ‘Chick-fil-A Day’ for Aug. 1”; read online.

“Muppets company severs ties with Chick-fil-A over gay marriage stance”; read online.

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom: Journeying through the Christian Life (InterVarsity Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

6 Comments

Filed under Capitalism, Christian benevolence, Law, Media, Politics, Religion

POLITICAL PERSPECTIVES by Julie Silander

Over this past weekend President Barack Obama announced his bid for reelection as the candidate from the Democrat Party. Former Massachusett Governor Mitt Romney is the the presumed candidate for the Republicans. Although both parties’ conventions aren’t until this summer, the race for President is now fully underway, as are the races for the Senate.

Given that, guest blogger, Julie Silander, of Charlotte, NC, offers some valuable perspectives for followers of Jesus (and they’re not bad for others, either). By the way, Julie’s own blog is found at www.greenertrees.net.

I offer the viewpoints below, not as a personal political statement, rather as fodder to add to the bonfire of politicalthought.  Not as voices of absolute truth, but as opinions to be considered.  Not as a stance on issues, rather as a perspective on the posture of the heart…

“Christians may be at times, ‘cobelligerents’ with the Left or Right, but never allies.  If there is social injustice, say there is social injustice.  If we need order, say we need order… But do not align yourself as though you are in either of these camps:  You are an ally of neither.  The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is different from either – totally different.”  Francis Schaeffer

Although I have definite political opinions and leanings, can I acknowledge that there is some degree of truth to be found on both sides of the party line?  Do I think, speak, and live out the fact that Truth supersedes my allegiance to a political party?

“A political programme can never in reality be more than probably right.  We never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess the future.  To attach to a party programme – whose highest real claim is to reasonable prudence – the sort of assent which we should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of intoxication.”  C.S. Lewis

Will I approach the issues, the candidates, and the proposed solutions with humility and admission that my viewpoint, no matter how informed, is still limited?

“For a Christian, Jesus is the one in whom it has indeed become manifest that revolution and conversation cannot be separated in the human search for experiential transcendence.  His appearance in our midst has made it undeniably clear that changing the human heart and changing society are not separate tasks, but are as interconnected as the two beams of the cross.

“Jesus was a revolutionary who did not become an extremist, since he did not offer an ideology, but himself. He was also a mystic, who did not use his intimate relationship with God to avoid the social evils of his time, but shocked his milieu to the point of being executed as rebel. In this sense he also remains for modern humanity the way to liberation and freedom.” Henri Nouwen

Am I placing my ultimate hope in the government – which is , at best, naive and, at worst, deadly –  or in the Author of all Hope?

“In Germany, they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Catholics,  and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.”  Pastor Martin Niemoller 

Although I may focus on the issues that are most likely to impact me, can I make room in my heart to care about the concerns of others?

May we stand firm in our convictions, but let us do so with humble hearts.

6 Comments

Filed under Christian benevolence, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized

Stephen Colbert Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About

The poster above has been floating around Facebook for a while.

Colbert doesn’t know what he’s talking about as he ignores all the Christian organizations that DO help the poor, unconditionally. Just look at a number of ministries right here in Greenville, SC:

Miracle Hill (which provides food and shelter in various locations in Greenville and Spartanburg; operates a women’s shelter, a boys’  home; and an orphanage). Triune Mercy Center, The Salvation Army; Gateway HouseHabitat for Humanity; Surgeons for Sight; The Samaritan House; The Center for Developmental Services; Joshua’s Way; Bethany Christian Services; Water for Life, Prison Fellowship, not to mention the numerous churches which provide food pantries and clothes closets.  I have not exhausted the list.

And Greenville is not an exception.

I suspect what Colbert is implying is that there’s something warped about Christians, such as I, who don’t want the government taking money out of my pocket and (inefficiently, btw) redistributing it to who THEY (a collective bureaucracy huddled in a building in the corner of the country) think is most deserving.

When I shared these thoughts (not as extensively) on a friend’s FB post, I got the following reply from a gentleman:

“So Johnny how do we provide for Health Care for workers who will never be able to afford it under today’s environment? And don’t be mistaken, we are paying for that care 10 times over now. Government is the only way to provide fair and equitable access…Business has NO incentive. The last thing any insurance company wants to do is pay your claim. Colbert is talking about the great hypocrisy displayed by many politicians.”

My response was: “No, Colbert is clearly talking about followers of Jesus. He is not aiming his comments at hypocritical politicians; he doesn’t even mention them. I wish I were smarter than I am. I wish I had a solution to your question. But I’ve seen enough of the way the government works to know that, given their success rate in so many other areas they’ve bankrupted (postal service, Amtrack, Medicare) or embezzled (Social Security; thank you LBJ), I simply cannot believe that ‘government is the only way to provide fair and equitable access.’ And we haven’t even brought up the constitutionality of it all. (And please don’t. I’m not going to get into that.) The bottom line is: Colbert’s statement is based on ignorance.”

Your thoughts are always welcome.

18 Comments

Filed under Christian benevolence